Life and Death of a Journalist, VAULT Festival

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by Meredith Jones Russell

Life and Death of a Journalist follows Laura, an English reporter who returns home from Hong Kong to be offered the job of a lifetime on a China-backed newspaper. However, as the paper goes to further lengths to appease its censor-happy investors, Laura gets more conflicted about her journalistic ethics.

The piece is really let down by its script. Overwhelmed with exposition and tongue-twistingly multi-syllabic lines, it never takes off as a convincing drama. Characters lack development or motivation and are forced to rely on heavy handed explanations of their relationships and rationale (“I put my hopes and dreams in you as a surrogate mother!”).

Unwieldy explanations of the political situation in Hong Kong (with its “seven plus million population”) do not convince as natural dialogue, and never really give any insight into the heart of a country we are told Laura loves, but never find out why.

The trio of actors do what they can with the stodge they’ve been given, but often struggle to get the words out. Many of their attempts to naturalise the awkward phrasing; pauses here or gestures there unfortunately end up feeling forced or just draw attention to how uncomfortable the lines sound.

Despite their best efforts, a great set and a concept with plenty of potential, it’s hard work to make it through the piece, which regrettably ends up being much more of a “tell” than a show.

Life and Death of a Journalist runs through 1 March.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

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